(To my horror, I’ve realized that I’ve made a mistake. No one tells you that helping to plan a wedding gives you Bride Brain even if you’re not the bride. This story should actually have not been published yet. So not to rob people of the rest of this story, I will continue to publish it and later re-categorize it correctly as Episode Ten. Then I will publish the real Episode Nine after this one. So if there are any references that no one gets, don’t worry, just give it until the next story gets published, and hopefully everything will then make sense. Till then, finish reading, thank you for not bashing my ignorance of this site, and I will fix this all as time will allow. Thank you.)
For some reason, even though it’s in between shifts and the halls are most certainly usually this empty this time of day, the case of the situation makes the emptiness eerie. It’s a feeling, a sentiment that keeps gnawing at them every step they take. No running this time. There’s urgency to be sure, but it all seems irrelevant to run when they don’t really have anywhere to go. It’s not like they’re rushing off to physically save the day. They’re at the beginning… with nothing to do except get all the information gathered. At that’s up to other people right now, not them. Every step they take makes a sound in the empty corridor. Normally the soles of their shoes stifled that sound, but these different shoes, these fancy leather boots that speak of a uniform far more fashionable than anything they normally wear on a mission, don’t stifle a thing against the stone flooring. It’s distracting. It’s irritating as hell. It’s something that he wishes he’d stop hearing, he picks up the pace and the clacking of their boots start sounding off like salvos of P-90 fire. It rankles his hackles further, tensing his shoulders tighter than they already are. As they hurry back, Richard Woolsey taps his earpiece in the hopes that he’ll find something to take his mind away from fixating on the clopping sounds of their boot heels on Atlantis’ hallway’s rust-colored marble floor rather than fixating on the sound of their bootsteps to take his mind away from worrying about Rodney’s predicament. He needs that metaphorical bread trail of—There’s that piercing beeping communicator chirping sound. Woolsey winces and fumbles to yank his earpiece out. He rubs his ringing ear.
Before he can say ‘What the hell was that?!’, the compact, hook-shaped, Earth device turns into a large, compact, rectangular, Earth device. One not of this century. He freezes. Staring down at it filling up the palm of his hand. The Original Series communicator’s gold grill is already flipped open. It’s central dial rimmed in silver with its inner image spinning in a black and white psychedelic way with a low buzzing hum. On a silver plate beneath the dial, the outer two of the three small L.E.D. lights, the yellow and blue ones, are glowing at him. What the…, he looks up at the others.
Ursula reaches out and presses the button, of the two silver buttons beneath the lights, nearest the small, square, silver vent on the device; somewhat misreading his confusion. At her pressing of the transmit/receive switch, the center red L.E.D. starts flashing. She nods at him.
“Doctor Zelenka, this is Woolsey,” he tries with more than a little flummox. He’d been thinking that he had no clue what the hell the device was doing in his hand and why had their usual communications device suddenly transformed in the palm of his hand in fact. Well, when in Rome, he brings the device closer to his mouth unsure and awkward of its proper use, “Please get everyone and anyone who knows the STAR TREK Original Series episode,” he looks to Kenmore to fill in the blank.
“‘Spock’s Brain,’” she whispers.
“‘Spock’s Brain’ into stations in Operations. In this case, Trekkies need apply.”
Teyla turns to Sheppard beside her, “Trekkie,” she asks.
Woolsey answers for him, “A Star Trek fan.”
Teyla nods and Sheppard looks at the former attorney.
“You,” he asks Woolsey. If it’s true, he… well, he never knew that about the rigid and rather closed off Expedition leader.
Richard shakes his head, while waiting for Radek’s response, “Not the Original Series, STAR TREK Voyager.”
“Really?” John never knew that.
“Yes, I felt a particular kinship with the Doctor on that series,” Richard waxes reminiscent for a moment. All business and very good at it, yes, there is definitely a kinship. In truth, it’s that fondness that originally sparked Richard’s interest in possibly donning a Stargate Program uniform. He thought the Doctor looked good in one, why not himself? And now, frankly, Richard can’t fathom taking the Expedition uniform off. He’d held his old ‘uniform’, his suit and tie, up to himself in front of his full size mirror in his quarters not too long ago when his residency here as Expedition leader was being called into question by his former employers the International Oversight Advisory. It was then that Richard had discovered that he’d ‘outgrown’ his suit and tie, in fact, he didn’t want to wear them all that much anymore. Sure, they’re fine to wear for a bit of a whiskey night cap with a lovely cigar on his private balcony overlooking the elegant nighttime vistas of the fabled city of Atlantis that he presided over, but they weren’t anything he wanted to wear on the daily basis of his work anymore. A suit and tie aren’t his work anymore.
“You felt a kinship with a hologram,” Kenmore asks bluntly. Her brows pinched in a ‘Really?’ expression.
“Yes, some people even say we look alike.”
Kenmore squints at him, tilts her head a little to one side, then shrugs it off, “Yeah, sure, why not.”
Woolsey frowns at her. There is something to be said about that TREK doctor including a huge fan base for that character alone. A large female demographic if he remembers correctly from the last time he visited the fan sites the last time he was on Earth and had the free time to do so. A large female demographic with the rather fervent opinion that let along does the man croon like Sinatra to them, but his semi-bald head is very kissable indeed. Extremely kissable if the lip marks of the actor’s co-workers were anything to go by, the likes of the refined sophistication of the highly thought of actress Kate Mulgrew or the smiling countenance of Roxann Dawson in the ridged forehead make-up of her half-Human, half-Klingon character or the Maxim model physicality and beauty of Jeri Ryan. But something’s nagging at him, “Radek, are you—“
“Uh, Mister Woolsey,” there’s something in the man’s voice, “I believe you should get back here immediately.”
Eyes go from one person to another all down the assembly of the group of five. More? There’s even more now?
Woolsey doesn’t even bother to ask any questions like his thoughts, “We’ll be right there, Radek.”
The five of them start moving again, picking their pace back up to that all out run to the Infirmary under the alarm of Jennifer’s scream. Richard Woolsey and Lieutenant Kenmore leading at the front followed by Colonel Sheppard and Teyla Emmagan with Ronon Dex bringing up the rear. Honestly believing they’re heading from worse to borderline catastrophic.
As soon as Woolsey, Kenmore, Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon trot in, their eyes catch the hard to miss sight that everyone in the control room is understandably engrossed by. No wonder it took Zelenka a couple of minutes before he told them to get their butts back here. It was probably spent in debate among them of which one gets to draw the metaphorical short straw and try and tell the Expedition’s senior staff about this new wrench in the works. Lucky Radek. As the most senior person there in the absence of the senior staff, he draws the short straw automatically and Sheppard and Woolsey can understand why the man didn’t get into the specifics over the communications line. None of them would have believed it even with what Doctor Beckett’s just told and shown them.
Sheppard points at the discrepancy, “How did the Ancient chair get in the middle of the room?”
Woolsey carefully walks the extensive perimeter of breathing room he automatically gives the powerful Ancient device and over to Radek Zelenka shaking his head of Beethoven hair, “I, we do not know. It just appeared. The, the main control console and the communications console with the DHD suddenly slid, literally slid, over to share the space the environmental console used to be, it simply disappeared. Then the Ancient chair appeared in the middle of everything.”
“Where did the environmental station go?”
“The upper deck,” Radek gestures, “and that is not all.”
“The communications console has been altered.”
Woolsey stares at the specified station, “How?”
“It is designed more like a navigation console.”
Woolsey turns to him, “So where is communications then?”
“The upper deck along with the sensors console and the environmental station.”
Woolsey looks and Radek is indeed right. And now that he’s looking specifically at the room itself and not everyone’s unusual clothing, there is a third central console on the upper deck and somehow the upper deck’s platform has expanded its footage to compensate for the addition. Now that he sees it, now that it’s sunken in what exactly he’s seeing, it’s as alarming a sight as all the Ancient screens and equipment that apparently accompany the Ancient medical scanner when it’s in full proper use.
“How can you tell they’re navigational systems,” Sheppard asks.
“Because they are the exact same systems I observe when the chair is flying the city,” Zelenka answers.
John startles, “You mean part of the chair’s systems have been transferred to that station there?”
John stares at the console, but he’s afraid to touch it. Afraid to compound the situation by accidentally lifting off the city. “So that means that really only I or Carson can use the console.”
“No,” Radek disagrees with a shake of his head.
“What?” John’s eyebrows rise.
“Anyone can use the console, Colonel. Just as they always have.”
“So anyone can fly the city now?”
“Yes, for the time being,” Zelenka nods, “Anyone.”
Sheppard’s not sure how he feels about that.
Complications. Everywhere he turns, every time he moves, there are more complications, Richard Woolsey walks up to the Ancient chair keeping a heavy sigh in reserve in his chest, and now this. If the city comes into danger, if a Wraith ship should somehow find them, somehow show up out of the blue, how will they defend themselves? Is the chair even functioning at that sort of a level? As far as he understood, the Captain’s Chair was mostly a figurehead piece of furniture in the middle of the bridge. Atlantis’ Ancient chair is anything but that. It’s pretty much the city’s sole form of defense… and as it stands that defense is in extreme question, probably impossible. Woolsey rests his hand on the top of the Ancient device’s headrest—it lights up! Woolsey yanks his hand away as he jumps back. Everyone stares. Richard looks at his palm staring back up at him, it doesn’t look like anything’s changed in him, then his eyes return to the lit Ancient chair, but that looks like something’s changed in him. Richard Woolsey looks to Zelenka.
“But how can it react to me? I don’t have the Ancient gene.”
“It’s possible if that’s meant to be the Captain’s Chair and you’re supposed to be the Captain,” Ursula breaks in. More and more, she’s getting her footing back to normal.
Sheppard’s aren’t the only eyes that turn to look at her, but he’s the one that asks the question. And he seems like he’s more than a little hurt to say it.
“He’s supposed to be Captain Kirk?” The whole Expedition goes around calling him Kirk after Rodney first started the joke they’re first year here and now all of a sudden Woolsey’s Captain Kirk?!
“Well, it makes sense,” she goes on, “Look at this place. At the consoles. The control chair has to be here as the command chair. This is the bridge now like it’s always been for Atlantis, both the city and the city-ship.”
“She is right,” Radek agrees, “It would seem your holodeck has expanded beyond its original room.”
“My holodeck? You and McKay argued for half an hour over who got to use it first.” Oh yeah, she’s back.
Radek looks sheepish about that and John gravitates to the more important part of Zelenka’s sentence. “What do you mean it’s expanded beyond the room?”
“You said you were on the bridge of the Enterprise, did you not? With,” Radek takes a moment, smiles at the fact that he’s about to say this and in some way actually mean it, “the actual Captain Kirk?”
“Yeah,” Ursula’s not getting it.
Radek goes up onto the upper deck and checks what he guesses would now be considered the science station, Mister Spock’s station. He sits down and starts going to work. Sheppard exchanges looks with Kenmore before he walks up to the console’s front.
“What is it, Radek,” he asks.
Zelenka keeps working, “Wait just a moment, Colonel.”
A beat then…
“Radek,” John asks again.
Zelenka ignores him. John lets it pass for another beat, but the urgency and his own being fed up with how stupid this whole ‘playing’ thing is is pushing his patience to the brink. He opens his mouth and finally the Czech scientist looks up from the console at him.
“It is as I suspected. The city is attempting to make this as realistic as possible by including the entire city in its programming and turning it into as close to a representation of the starship Enterprise as it possibly can.”
“Okay so how did everything get switched around up here?” John asks.
“It is quite fascinating really. If it is as you believe that we are enacting the episode ‘Spock’s Brain’, then Atlantis is going out of its way to endeavor to be as accurate to the details of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s bridge, which is exactly as Lieutenant Kenmore stated, the Operations Center is to Atlantis, the bridge.” Radek casually pushes up on the bridge of his glasses from where they’d slipped down his nose.
“Is anything damaged?” John presses. That’s all they need is for all these changes to be permanent.
“No, that is the good thing. As far as I can tell, everything is working as it should be.”
“Yeah, but you said the same thing about the hologram podium in the first place.”
Radek takes the Colonel’s hit with a closing of his eyes in a short moment of silence before he opens them again and continues, “We had not anticipated an apparently very key thing. You see all of the holorooms around the city are connected together in a sort of network. When Lieutenant Kenmore connected her gaming system to the holoroom’s control podium, the podium itself tapped into the gaming system’s own ability to network to its own companion gaming systems. It is such an unlikelihood that I do not even think it ever entered into Rodney’s thinking and certainly did not enter mine. Lieutenant Kenmore would have no way of knowing this as well.”
“How does this affect the city exactly?” Really, John thinks, the entire city somehow got messed up by a DVD and a PS2? If this mission gets reported anywhere near accurately, no one back at Stargate Command will let him live this down. Nagging fears of the city about to explode or spontaneously alerting the Wraith to their location or anything else hazardously stupid for them pulls at his every grating nerve. What a time for the Daedalus to not be here for any evacuations if the Stargate proves to be too dangerous to try and use to get to the Alpha or Beta sites or if the puddle jumpers prove a no-go too in case the bay doors whether up top or underwater aren’t working either.
“Both systems utilize a form of artificial intelligence that can cause the computer itself to adapt to game play, but whereas the Lieutenant’s gaming system’s A.I.’s ability to adapt is extremely limited, Atlantis’ ability to adapt is not,” Radek keeps on explaining. At least it’s not only Kenmore that has the answers.
“So the city adapted to the parameters of playing inside a television episode on a DVD,” Woolsey sighs, his frown deepening as he finds this as hard to believe as ever. But he’s quickly getting used to that feeling in this situation. At least it’s not something entirely unfamiliar to him. There was an SG-1 pseudo-mission in which Teal’c had inadvertently trapped himself inside the so-called ‘Avatar’ training system due to both his own arrogance and stubbornness, something the ‘Avatar’ computer intelligence picked up on and held to with a more than metaphorical death grip. The powerhouse Jaffa’s own thoughts and disposition had nearly killed him. However his team had not given up on him and it was Doctor Daniel Jackson who entered the gaming system and helped his friend finally end the ‘Avatar’ system’s ‘game’ for good. Later, the part of the programming that made Teal’c’s entrapment possible was recalibrated to be less… perceptive to its trainee’s personality.
Zelenka nods, “Yes and it is endeavoring to make the playing as accurate as possible as well. According to Atlantis’ computers, as of the exact moment we awoke, we became the characters of the episode. Both you and Colonel Sheppard are acting as Captain Kirk since the city knows to identify both of you as leaders of the Expedition, both administratively and in terms of the military. Teyla is Lieutenant Uhura, Lieutenant Kenmore is a generic Lieutenant from the episode and Ronon is a generic security officer. Chuck is considered to be Sulu, which makes sense considering that Sulu always plotted in the ship’s course and here Chuck keys in the gate addresses for the gate teams travels on his console.”
John gets the idea. “What else is the city telling you,” he nods at Radek’s station. Why not get the information now since the city’s computer’s being so accommodating with the Czech.
“Good news actually.”
“Good news,” Ronon questions.
Teyla comes up to Radek’s console, “It has found Rodney’s brain or the woman that took it?”
Radek kind of makes a shrugging gesture and gets a strange wincing expression on his face, “In a way. The good news is that the city says that this situation is contained to just the city. There are no indications that the city has activated any of its spaceship systems whatsoever.”
“Then that means that Rodney’s brain has to be somewhere in the city. In the episode—“
Radek starts nodding at Kenmore with a smile, she’s beaten him to the punch, “The Enterprise went on a manhunt to another solar system,” he finishes for her and goes on with his original information, “Yes, the city has not seen a need for becoming a spaceship again, it is keeping the entire episode self-contained to its elements of being a city. Both Rodney’s brain and the woman that took it are still here somewhere. Rather than a manhunt, the city has dictated that we endeavor in a sort of treasure hunt.”
John can feel it. In fact he does it. A breath, a release of stress, suddenly vacates his—it catches in his throat.
“Are the city’s sensors working,” he asks quickly.
Doctor Zelenka nods, but there’s no smile, “Limitedly, like on the starship it is supposed to be mimicking.”
Sheppard doesn’t care. They’ve got a start. “That’s still good enough for me,” he turns to the nearest Gateroom marine dressed in a red shirt security STAR TREK The Original Series uniform with—John’s mind stutters a little when his eyes see that the man isn’t carrying their usual P-90 or even their usual Beretta pistol. Instead there’s a phaser? Is that what they’re called?… Is that what they’re supposed to look like? Okay, so they’re playing with toys here. Fantastic. Ronon’s going to love this whenever he has to get armed. “Get all the personnel that you can into groups and start searching the city. I want that woman found and,” John turns to Radek, “am I right in believing that she’ll be the only person not looking like us?”
“Good,” the Colonel turns back to the marine, “Go.”
The man nods and hurries off. Picking up, with a point of his finger, another red shirt marine on his way out of Operations.
One problem down, Woolsey takes them on to solving the rest of the issues that have cropped up. This is good. This is how they get things done. How they always get things done, “What else do we need to be doing according to the episode?”
“We are doing it,” Zelenka tells his superior.
John’s already ahead of Woolsey on that one, “We’re heading out there too,” he tells the Expedition Commander.
A communication chirps on a console far to Radek’s left, from the right side of the upper deck. Everyone looks over at it. That’s never happened before. Zelenka smiles, remembering a ship’s bridge layout he used to dream about, still does truth be told, as well as knowing the reconfiguration he’d witnessed firsthand. He gestures at the chirping console, “Lieutenant Uhura, I believe you are being called to duty.”
“What,” Teyla says with Radek’s eyes looking right at her.
“Lieutenant Uhura was the communications officer onboard the Enterprise,” he clarifies for her, “The city has designated you as Lieutenant Uhura. Now you must coordinate all the communications of the city as she did for the ship.”
The shocked Athosian leader looks to John Sheppard. He doesn’t know what to tell her. Captain Kirk aside, it’s not like he’s running the show here. Literally. Atlantis is. He doesn’t want to say it, but he’s genuinely spooked to see what the city might do to Rodney or them if anyone decides that they don’t want to play along. He’s also scared to see what the city will do if someone doesn’t know how to play their part well enough, but Teyla does know something of the computer systems up here, she was pretty handy on that dimension jumping Daedalus some months back so that might throw the odds in her favor.
“We have to play along with the episode’s course,” Radek tells her gently, automatically picking up on the silent exchange between Sheppard and Teyla, “Teyla, you have to assume your role.”
She keeps her eyes on Colonel Sheppard and he does the only thing he has left to do, he nods at her. Ushered on, Teyla Emmagan turns her attention to the beeping console. Her earrings bouncing noticeably against her cheek as if to remind her of their predicament and her place in it. Another ushering perhaps? The city telling her to move on? She slowly strides up to the upper deck. She has never done anything like this before. It has never been one of her responsibilities in the city, especially in this room. That unusual mission onboard a multiple universe traveling Daedalus had been one thing, she had learned enough from the kindness of the Daedalus’ personnel to be able to assist Rodney in some small way in his endeavors to return them all to their own universe, but this may indeed be something quite different. Somehow to her Atlantis has always seemed more fragile than the Earth vessel. Maybe it’s the design aesthetic, the Daedalus is grey and solid and large bulky lines that signify thickness and density to her; things not easily broken. Meanwhile Atlantis is full of light and its structure is far less bulky signifying gentility to her; things very easily snapped with a minimum of pressure even though she knows that’s not true. Furthermore she has had no such preliminary training for any of the Operation Center’s computer systems despite her years of familiarity with the city and she doubts very highly that the Daedalus’ computer systems and Atlantis’ are similar enough for her to manage her way through this. Then there is the console itself. She has never been shown anything to do with the operation of this console even though she knows what it’s primary and secondary purposes are. Yet, she is here to try and provide what assistance to Rodney she can as she had onboard the Daedalus.
Teyla hesitantly sits down behind her city appointed computer station and answers the chirping with a push of a button that was flashing on her board. Abruptly Teyla gasps and touches her earpiece. Sheppard reacts with worry. Stepping closer to her station, debating on whether or not he should reach out to her.
She holds stock still as her earpiece transforms beneath her fingertips. Growing far larger and more substantial. It suddenly stops being hooked around her ear and she holds onto the soft molded plastic piece in her ear via some plate like attachment as the slim hook-shaped part of it becomes bulbous and corrugated. The smile that starts to spread across her lips should be a big ease to his tensions. Her fingers pull away from her earpiece some to reveal its drastic shape and configuration change. The silver and black cylindrical device sticks out of her ear at an awkward angle that looks absolutely painful, but she does not mind it at all. It is quite comfortable actually. She continues to keep her fingertips pressed against the small square retention plate holding the new earpiece in her ear, leaving the fat corrugated cylinder end of the mechanism to stand out freely, “It is alright, John. The messages are coming through into my earpiece. It is alright. Go on, I will help coordinate the search teams from here.”
John eases, she looks happy enough at least. He nods. He doesn’t like doing this without her, but it would seem that he has no choice in the matter. Lieutenant Uhura is needed on the bridge. Besides, he’d rather have Teyla in the thick of it in some way if not with his team anyways and there’s no better way to be in the thick of it than being the one directing the search teams. Even as he retreats from her station, Teyla’s already settling into her new position too. Turning her attentions to her computer station with her fingers following Atlantis’ helpful guides of making whatever button or ‘key’ of the piano-style console flash at her until she presses it. She begins talking to two other search team parties that have already started to call in for instructions. The marines have indeed moved fast to answer the distress of their city.
Teyla presses another flashing button then another and another in a series, “Sergeant Stackhouse, please have your team begin searching Grid One-A-One of the city… Yes, Major Modha, I believe that your team is needed to search Grid Five-A-One…”
As she goes on sending out team after reporting in team, Sheppard lets go of the console and heads for the nearest exit. Teyla/Uhura’s got the situation in hand… and he’s going to have to stop doing that so blatantly. Teyla’s perfectly fine at handling herself and has been for years since before John and the rest of the Atlantis Expedition ever showed up in her galaxy. It’s not like either of them is incapable and the more the two of them keep looking to each other for backup or leadership or guidance or whatever they so obviously look for from each other in front of other people, the more it comes across as neither of them knows how to function without the other. If it’s done anything, that ‘Teamwork’ mission has taught them that the members of Atlantis’ flagship Reconnaissance Team need to start weaning themselves off of each other. This, it would seem, is a good enough mission as any to start trying that. No, not trying, succeeding, John corrects his thinking. They have to be the best team they can be for Rodney’s sake. That means they divide, yes, and also conquer.
“We’ll make our way back to the room this whole thing started from and go from there,” he tells Woolsey as he passes him.
Woolsey nods as Sheppard leads Kenmore and Ronon out of the Operations Center…
…then Richard’s eyes go to the Ancient chair… His command chair. He’s never mentioned it to anyone except the therapist who conducted his mental evaluation in preparation for his assuming command of this Expedition that he’s always wondered what it was like to operate the thing, what it was like to be able to activate anything Ancient just by touching it or thinking at it. It’s a natural born gift that he’s never had, but had always wished he did. It was truly a dream bursting moment when the Ancient Gene Therapy injection didn’t work on him. Being ATA capable was not for him. But… he goes over to it, well aware that every set of eyes in the room, no matter how covert about it they’re trying to be, are watching his every move towards the extremely powerful and meaningful Ancient device. Richard looks down upon it for a moment, weighing the decision to brush his fingers over its armrest again. But now he has that dreamt of opportunity again. How many people are allowed to have the same dream twice? How many people are allowed that chance? So why just start and stop with grazing an armrest? Quietly and outwardly calm, but anxious like a child with an exciting new toy inside, Richard Woolsey comes around to the jutting footrest of the Ancient device. He turns and sits in Atlantis’ Ancient chair.
The illuminated mechanical wonder adjusts to conform itself to a more comfortable upright position for him. Every squishy porous part of it suddenly taking on the chiropractic traits of memory foam. How… cozy. Somehow he never thought it’d be cozy. Who would every think looking at it that it could possibly be referred to as cozy? On second thought, everyone who’s ever sat in one of the torturous looking chairs of the puddle jumpers always comments on their incredibly nice comfort factor. Some have even commented that things feel almost like cushy recliners. And it’s warm too. He hadn’t expected that. All the cool colorings of the naquadah and ocean blues have never ever indicated to him that the Ancient chair could or would heat itself to accommodate the comfort of its controller. Oh and he’s tempted, really tempted. Sorely tempted. He wants to lean back in the chair and think of something, anything just see that beautiful display of light and information the artifact would show to tell him and everyone around them how attuned they are to each other. He restrains himself in that, has to lest he accidentally ends up firing off one of the city’s drones the way Doctor Beckett had when he’d sat in the chair the first time and thought of something. Instead he opts for gazing down at what he can see of the Gateroom below from the new viewing vantage he has in the Operations Center. And smiles.
So this is what it feels like to be Captain Kirk?